Saturday, May 3, 2014

A Hyena is a Hyena, No Matter How Small

There are four species of modern day hyena.  We study the spotted hyena, so we use hyena broadly to mean the spotted hyena.  However, there are still the brown hyena, striped hyena, and aardwolf that make of the hyena family.

In the field, I’m conducting experiments to test (spotted) hyenas’ boldness in response to an intruder (spotted) hyena, modeled by a life-sized spotted hyena archery target.  Recently, I was conducting one of these Target trials with Ojibway in our Happy Zebra territory.  Unfortunately, Omaha appeared (how do hyenas hide on a wide open plain with short grass?!?) and interrupted the trial, which kind of flustered me as I was trying to keep track of what both hyenas were doing.  I kept my camera recording the trial, hoping to get some data from Ojibway, and she was actually interacting with Target.  I was very focused on my camera on Ojibway, and eventually, I noticed another hyena-like figure out of the corner of my eye coming the from the direction we had seen Tempe 15 minutes earlier.  I said to Emily, who was in the car with me, “Good grief, here comes Tempe too.”  Emily briefly looks and says that she thinks it’s a jackal.  

What is that?!

That is when I realize the scale out of the corner of my eye was totally off, it’s actually a smaller animal much closer than I thought.  As I’m focusing on this new interloper, I briefly think that that’s no jackal, it looks a bit like an alien (I have no idea what made me think that, maybe the halo around it as the sun was shining through its fur) and shout, “What on earth is that?!”  Then it turned...


“Oh my god, that’s striped...aardwolf!”  Yes, an aardwolf, the smallest hyena species, interrupted my trial...  I proceeded to stammer about not knowing what to do; aardwolves are really rare for us to see, and I was already trying to keep track of too many things.  Luckily Ojibway and Omaha were leaving, so Emily and I just stared at this amazing aardwolf sighting.  My only previous aardwolf sightings were of them running away into the distance, but this guy was just standing there staring at Target; apparently the aardwolf was confused by the “intruder” too.

So, of all my ruined target trials, this one is probably my favorite.  The constant surprises of field work!

He was very interested in Target...


dee said...

Wow! Promise me you'll take me to see one while I'm in camp! Just kidding, but that one is still on my list.

biobabbler said...

Wow. That is THRILLING. Congratulations! =)

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